7-1-20 How academic institutions make it harder to be a female scientist
Picture a Scientist shines a light on gender discrimination in science – and also finds reasons to be hopeful, says Simon Ings. WHAT is it about the institutions of science that encourages bullying and sexism? That pushes a young geologist down an Antarctic hillside? That tells a Black chemist to straighten her hair before applying for a job? That takes vital equipment from the tiny, ill-appointed lab of a promising researcher? Picture a Scientist follows the careers of three women and pinpoints where the field has let them down. Women disproportionately drop out of academia. In 2018, women were awarded 50 per cent of the bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering in the US, but only 36 per cent of postdocs that year were female. Small wonder, considering the experiences of the three women at the heart of this film. As a PhD student at Boston University on her first research trip to Antarctica, geologist Jane Willenbring was insulted, bullied and physically abused by her supervisor. In the film, she deplores a culture that benefits those who put up and shut up. PhD students are all too aware that an ill-disposed supervisor can foreclose all avenues of professional advancement. It pays them, therefore, to be tolerant of their supervisor’s “quirks” – to see no evil in them, and speak no evil of them. In this dynamic of patron and client, the opportunities for abuse are rife. The film also features Raychelle Burks, a chemist at American University in Washington DC, and Nancy Hopkins, a geneticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The trio are very successful, despite their struggles. Willenbring, now at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, studies how Earth’s crust responds to climate change. Burks develops cheap, easy forensic tests for war zones and disaster relief. Hopkins studies cancer.
6-26-20 Managers who think gender bias isn’t a problem make it worse
Women continue to experience gender bias and discrimination – including lower pay and performance evaluations – even in workplaces where they are in a majority, according to a study of vets. Bias in the workplace appears to be perpetuated by people who don’t think it exists. The finding suggests that simply hiring more women won’t solve gender discrimination in the workplace. A UN report published earlier this year found that, globally, almost 90 per cent of people hold some kind of bias against women, and half of men felt they had more of a right to a job than a woman. Gender pay gaps persist, too. In the US, women earn around 85 per cent of what men do, for example. To explore whether the same trends exist in fields in which women are well-represented, Chris Begeny at the University of Exeter, UK, and his colleagues turned to veterinary medicine – a field that was almost entirely male in the 1960s in the UK, but today has a workforce with more women than men. “It has been over 50 per cent [female] for well over a decade now,” says Begeny. Begeny’s team first asked 1147 vets, 67 per cent of whom were female, if they felt they had been treated differently, negatively or in line with stereotypes based on their gender. Respondents were also asked if they felt their colleagues acknowledged their competencies, value and worth. The women in the study reported significantly more gender bias, and were more likely to feel their value and worth weren’t recognised in the workplace, says Begeny, even when the team accounted for the respondents’ role, experience and working hours. In a second study, Begeny’s team put together fake performance reviews for 254 managers, 57 per cent of whom were female, to assess. The reviews detailed fictional employees’ experience and qualifications, and included positive and negative feedback. The reviews were identical apart from the fact that one described a female “Elizabeth” while another described a male “Mark”.
5-2-20 US Women's equal pay claim dismissed by court
The United States women's football team's bid for equal pay has been dismissed by a court, with the judge rejecting the players' claims they were underpaid compared to the men. The lawsuit was filed by 28 women's national team players last year against the US Soccer Federation (USSF). They had been seeking $66m (£52.8m) in damages under the Equal Pay Act. Molly Levinson, the players' spokeswoman, said that they planned to appeal against the decision. "We are shocked and disappointed," said Levinson. "We will not give up our hard work for equal pay. "We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender." Federal judge Gary Klausner allowed the players' case for unfair treatment in travel, housing and medical support to go to trial, which is set for 16 June in Los Angeles. Giving its ruling, the court said: "The women's team has been paid more on both a cumulative and an average per-game basis than the men's team over the class period." The US team won the Women's World Cup last summer for their fourth title overall. They have also won five Olympic gold medals. After the equal pay claim was dismissed, striker Megan Rapinoe, who won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at last year's World Cup, tweeted: "We will never stop fighting for equality." Fellow US striker Alex Morgan said: "Although disappointing to hear this news, this will not discourage us in our fight for equality." The USSF said it wanted to work with the team to "chart a positive path forward to grow the game both here at home and around the world". Its statement added: "US Soccer has long been the world leader for the women's game on and off the field and we are committed to continuing that work." Former USSF president Carlos Cordeiro resigned in March after lawyers for US football's governing body made submissions as part of the lawsuit in which it was claimed that the job of a male footballer on the national team "requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength" than their female counterparts.
4-26-20 Should women be eligible for US military draft?
US women may soon achieve a level of equality not everyone wants - ending 40 years of all-male precedent by becoming eligible to be conscripted in a time of war, writes James Jeffrey. One of the starkest ways American women have achieved equality with men in the workplace has occurred in the military. The decision five years ago by then Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to open all positions in the armed forces to women - including combat duty - was largely applauded as a necessary step that benefited the military and society. But this levelling of the military playing field has led to a more divisive consequence - at the end of March the government's National Commission on Military, National and Public Service declared it is now time that women become eligible for the military draft - the procedure by which individuals are chosen for conscription - just like their male counterparts between the ages of 18 and 25. Currently, all male US citizens in that age bracket, regardless of where they live, and male immigrants - documented and undocumented - residing within the US, must register through the Selective Service System. These registrations create a pool of men who could be pressed into service if the US needs tens of thousands more troops to fight a war or if the country faces an existential crisis. Women have also been serving the US military for generations, from sewing uniforms during the Revolutionary War to nursing the wounded in World War II. But they have never been required to register for the draft, a stance increasingly at odds with the reality of American's modern military. "The mere fact that women would have to register would signal a national recognition that everyone is expected to serve if needed and that everyone's service is valued equally," says Kara Vuic, a war studies professor at Texas Christian University, who is writing a book called Drafting Women.
3-13-20 Many jobs still barred to women
Russian women will soon have the right to work as train engineers, said Samantha Berkhead. Since 1974, women had been banned from employment in 456 jobs deemed too strenuous for them, ranging from truck driver to aviation mechanic. Those restrictions were “a remnant of the Soviet-era belief” that women must be sheltered because their “safety and ability to bear children were paramount to the survival of the communist state.” But thanks to a lawsuit by would-be riverboat captain Svetlana Medvedeva, the Labor Ministry has removed most of those jobs from the banned list, and they will be open to women starting next Jan. 1. Still, about 100 jobs, including mining, welding, and firefighting, will remain the preserve of men. Activists say that could be because the Russian political class is still overwhelmingly male. Women make up only 15 percent of the State Duma, and only three of the 31 cabinet ministers are women. Medvedeva won her suit in 2017 and now works for a shipping company, but it took three more years for the government to pass broader changes to apply to everyone. “The government does not want to see women on a par with men,” she said. “Our rulers consider women to be incubators.” (Webmaster's comment: By law equality was total in the Original Soviet Union!)
3-13-20 Pakistan: An uphill struggle for gender equality
What a “win for women,” said The Nation in an editorial. On International Women’s Day this week, thousands of Pakistani women across the country turned out to rally for equality, both under the law and in the home. The third annual Aurat March—Urdu for women’s march—brought together women “from different walks of life” to agitate for basic rights that both Islam and Pakistan’s secular constitution afford them but which are often denied them in practice. Protesters demanded access to education and freedom from violence—more than 1,000 women are murdered here in the name of honor every year—as well as an end to sexist demands. At last year’s march, a placard reading “How do I know where your socks are?” caused men to erupt in outrage that their wives might dare refuse to serve their every need. Fear that slogans would be similarly provocative this year sparked a “media tirade against the movement,” mostly on radio and television. Yet despite threats from Islamists, the demonstrations went ahead peacefully in almost every major city, with the only major disturbance occurring in Islamabad, where a few rioting men threw stones and injured several marchers. But you can’t change society by being polite, said Sherry Rehman in The News International. Rights don’t just “fall into anyone’s lap, not in Pakistan, not anywhere.” We are literally fighting for our lives—a woman dies in childbirth every 20 minutes in this country, “mostly because they are married off too young.” Some 50 percent of Pakistani women have no say in their health-care decisions. And dozens of women every year have acid hurled in their faces for daring to reject a suitor. In a country defined by such abuse and inequality, “it’s a little amoral to not be radical.”
3-8-20 International Women's Day: Marchers around the world call for equality
Marches to raise awareness of discrimination against women are taking place in cities around the world to mark International Women's Day. The protests have been widespread and well-attended despite concerns about the coronavirus. People around the world have been marking 8 March as a special day for women for more than a century. It grew out of the labour movement to become a UN-recognised annual event. Women at Turkey's border with Greece held a demonstration demanding they be permitted to cross during International Women's Day. There have been fierce clashes between migrants and Greek border security as the former seek access to the EU. Bangladeshi women played basketball on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, in a match organised for International Women's Day. In Pakistan marches took place in several cities in the face of violent threats and legal petitions. Here, supporters of the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami march in Karachi. In the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek police detained dozens of women's rights activists shortly after masked men reportedly attacked marchers. Activists say women's rights are deteriorating in the country. In Belarus women took part in a "beauty run" to mark the day. Here, women warm up ahead of the run. Women in the Spanish capital Madrid's Sol Square shouted and bashed pots and pans together to mark the start of the International Women's Day.
3-4-20 Did first female-majority legislature in US make a difference?
Nevada made history when it became the first state in the US with a female-majority legislature, with women holding 51% of the seats, in December 2018. The moment was hailed as a great victory for women - but did having more women in power make a practical difference? Here are five areas Nevada legislated on in 2019 - which commentators say were helped by the fact there were more women at the table.
- Compensating firefighters who develop breast, uterine and ovarian cancer
- Paid leave - including sick leave - for employees
- Equal pay legislation
- The 'Trust Nevada Women Act'
- Measures on sexual assault and domestic violence
2-28-20 Fix work for everyone, not just women
When companies ask why they have trouble retaining women, they’re usually told that it’s because they don’t provide enough tools for work-life balance, said Robin Ely and Irene Padavic. Both men and women overwhelmingly say that “women’s devotion to family makes it impossible for them to put in” the hours to advance to the executive ranks. So to solve the problem of “women’s stalled advancement,” employers seek to offer “accommodations, such as going part-time and shifting to internally facing roles.” The effect of this is “perverse”: In an 18-month in-house study we did for one consulting company, “employees who took advantage of such accommodations—virtually all of whom were women—were stigmatized and saw their careers derailed.” In reality, parents of both sexes at the firm we studied were deeply distressed over their work-family conflicts. “I was traveling three days a week and seeing my children once or twice a week for 45 minutes before they went to bed,” one man we spoke with told us about an especially bad patch. After listening to workers, we told the company that what it needed to fix wasn’t specific to women. It was the firm’s whole work culture with its “relentless demand for 24/7 availability.” The company didn’t want to hear it. It dismissed the data, and our engagement effectively ended.
2-28-20 The ‘hidden figure’ who put astronauts in space
Katherine Johnson liked to say that she joined the space program when “computers wore skirts.” She was one of several hundred women who performed complex calculations for NASA’s engineers—who, unlike Johnson, were white and male—using little more than slide rules and pencils. Possessing a fine mathematical mind, Johnson became the first black member of the agency’s elite Flight Research Division. There, she calculated the trajectory for the 1961 rocket launch that made Alan Shepard the first American in space, and the following year helped John Glenn become the first American to orbit Earth. In 1969, her math got Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon and back. Yet Johnson’s contributions went largely unheralded until her story and that of other black “computers” was told in the hit 2016 movie Hidden Figures. She seemed indifferent to the overdue attention. “I was just doing my job,” Johnson said in 2017. “They needed information, and I had it.” She entered West Virginia State the next year, but after graduating found there were few opportunities “for black female teenage mathematicians,” said The New York Times. She worked as a schoolteacher until 1952, when she heard that Langley Research Center in Virginia—then run by NASA’s predecessor agency—was hiring black female “computers.” Johnson and her black colleagues were told to use separate offices and bathrooms “from their white counterparts, until the birth of NASA in 1958,” said The Guardian (U.K.). Despite such racist policies, Johnson thrived at the research facility and became a vital part of its operation. Glenn refused to fly his 1962 mission until Johnson verified a trajectory produced by an electronic computer. “If she says they’re good,” he said, “then I’m ready to go.” Johnson would spend 33 years at Langley, and in 2015 was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Her formulas are still in use today. “If we go back to the moon, or to Mars,” said NASA’s chief historian, Bill Barry, “we’ll be using her math.”
2-28-20 Woman rapper faces arrest
Saudi Arabian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a Saudi rapper whose new music video celebrates her pride in hailing from Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Asayel Slay is dressed conservatively in the video for “Mecca Girl,” wearing a headscarf and sunglasses. “Our respect to other girls,” she raps, “but the Mecca girl is sugar candy.” Still, her video shows young men and women dancing together—a no-no in strictly sex-segregated Saudi Arabia. Mecca’s governor, Prince Khalid bin Faisal, said the “insulting” video “offends the customs and traditions of Mecca and contradicts the identity and traditions of its esteemed population.” Slay is of Eritrean origin, and critics said that if she were light-skinned, authorities would be promoting the song.
2-25-20 NASA icon Katherine Johnson has died at the age of 101
The African-American researcher helped break barriers for minorities and women in science. An inspirational “Hidden Figure” and a key player in sending the first humans to the moon, mathematician Katherine Johnson died February 24 at the age of 101. Born in West Virginia in 1918, her aptitude for math was evident at an early age. In 1953, she took a job at NASA’s predecessor NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. There, she joined a group of other African-American women known as “computers” who performed calculations for the space program before electronic computers went mainstream. During the Space Race era, Johnson performed essential calculations of flight trajectories, including the 1961 flight of the first American in space, Alan Shepard. Famously, at the personal request of astronaut John Glenn, she checked by hand the calculations for his 1962 orbit of Earth, although NASA had begun using electronic computers by then. “If she says they’re good,’” Glenn reportedly said, “then I’m ready to go.” Unlike the astronauts whose flight paths she calculated, Johnson worked in relative obscurity. But that changed after a 2016 book and film, both titled Hidden Figures, profiled Johnson and other black women at NASA (SN: 12/23/16). Almost overnight, Johnson became a household name and a celebrated figure of science. Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, had NASA buildings named after her and even had a LEGO figure created in her likeness.
2-24-20 Katherine Johnson: Hidden Figures Nasa mathematician dies at 101
Pioneering African-American Nasa mathematician Katherine Johnson has died at the age of 101. Nasa announced her death on Twitter, saying it was celebrating her life and honouring "her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers". Ms Johnson calculated rocket trajectories and Earth orbits for Nasa's early space missions. She was portrayed in the 2016 Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. The film tells the story of African-American women whose maths skills helped put US astronaut John Glenn into orbit around the Earth in 1962. Ms Johnson verified the calculations made by new electronic computers before his flight. Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine described Ms Johnson as "a leader from our pioneering days". "Ms Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of colour in the universal human quest to explore space," he said in a statement. "Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the Moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars." Ms Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. Then-US President Barack Obama later cited her in his State of the Union address as an example of the country's spirit of discovery. Ms Johnson was born in a small town in West Virginia in 1918 and was fascinated by numbers from a young age. "I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed…anything that could be counted, I did," she once said. She excelled academically, graduating from high school at just 14 and from university at 18. Nasa notes that her academic achievements were particularly impressive "in an era when school for African-Americans normally stopped at eighth grade for those that could indulge in that luxury". After working as a teacher and being a stay-at-home mum, Ms Johnson began working for Nasa's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (Naca), in 1953. There, she had the job title "computer" and was tasked with calculating trajectories for early US space missions. During the space race between the US and the former Soviet Union, Ms Johnson and her African-American colleagues worked in separate facilities to white workers, and used different toilets and dining areas. She always said she was too busy with her work to be concerned about being treated unequally. "My dad taught us, 'You are as good as anybody in this town, but you're no better,'" she told Nasa in 2008. "I don't have a feeling of inferiority. Never had. I'm as good as anybody, but no better."
2-21-20 Coronavirus: Pregnant nurse 'propaganda' sparks backlash
A video featuring a pregnant nurse treating patients in a hospital in the virus epicentre of Wuhan has sparked a backlash across China. The video by state media outlet CCTV was meant to portray nine-month pregnant Zhao Yu as a hero. But instead social media users criticised the hospital for allowing a heavily pregnant nurse to work in a highly contagious environment. One user said the woman was being used as a "propaganda tool". More than 2,200 people have now died from the coronavirus in China, with the majority of deaths coming out Wuhan, capital of Hubei province. In China alone, there have been more than 75,000 cases of infection. The virus has also spread around the globe with more than 1,000 cases and several deaths worldwide. State media outlet CCTV had last week released a video featuring Zhao Yu, who works in the emergency ward at a military hospital in Wuhan. The video shows her walking around the hospital in a hazmat suit while heavily pregnant. She's seen making the rounds and testing a patient who is later sent to the fever department. The patient is heard telling her not to work as it is "dangerous". Zhao Yu acknowledges in the video that her family objects to her continuing to work, but adds that she hopes to do her part in fighting the virus. But the video - which was meant to be a touching tribute to her self-sacrifice - touched a nerve, with many accusing the broadcaster of using her story as a form of "propaganda". "Can we stop all this propaganda? Who made the decision that this video was okay? Pregnant women should not be [on the frontlines], that's it," another said. "What is this, a show for political purposes? Don't send a woman who is nine months pregnant to do this," said one comment. "I really think that this message... blindly advocating women to fight on the frontlines regardless of their health... it's really sick," one person said. (Webmaster's comment: It's her choice! If she wishes to continue working it is her right!)
2-14-20 Gender: From the glass ceiling to the glass cliff
“Why do so few women occupy the chief executive job?” asked Vanessa Fuhrmans in The Wall Street Journal. Last year, 307 companies in the Russell 3000 Index appointed new CEOs. “Only 26 were women,” bringing the grand total of women at the top of the country’s 3,000 biggest companies to a whopping 167. “That’s more than double the share a decade ago, but still under 6 percent.” A traditional obstacle to women’s advancement—family responsibilities—is not what it once was, yet many still find themselves facing “an invisible wall” impeding their pathway to the corner office. A recent study found “men are three times more likely to have been encouraged to consider” profit-generating roles such as operations or division head that “traditionally have been stepping-stones to the CEO position.” The share of women executives in those roles has stayed flat even as the women have risen higher in supporting roles. Women are more likely to be pigeonholed in one area of a company—say, marketing or human resources—without a natural path to the top. Said Jane Stevenson, the CEO of executive-recruiting firm Korn Ferry, “Women get trained around people; men get trained around the guts of the business.” Indeed, lack of profit-and-loss experience is a huge factor in the absence of women CEOs, said Kristen Bellstrom and Emma Hinchliffe in Fortune. “One question that comes up early and often for any executive who’s not yet a CEO: Does she have any P&L responsibility?” It’s the same question boards will ask when they’re looking for CEO candidates. And if a company is already in trouble, it’s often a woman who gets promoted to clean up the mess, said Julia Boorstin in CNBC.com. Researchers call this the “Glass Cliff” problem, meaning her job’s instantly more tenuous. If the firm’s performance doesn’t improve, she is more often replaced by a man—the “savior effect.” Even when business is claiming to cheer on women, said Hephzibah Anderson in BBC.com, it’s often subtly undermining their achievements. Take “girl boss,” the viral phrase spawned by entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso’s best-selling 2014 autobiography. “Have we ever heard about ‘boy bosses?’” Ironically, the movement for gender equality, too, can saddle women CEOs with impossible expectations, said Rebecca Greenfield in Bloomberg Businessweek. There’s been a “surge of money and attention going to startups founded and run by women,” on the premise that somehow they will “operate in a different and better way.” The truth is female CEOs don’t create “feminist utopias.” In fact, facing the same corporate dilemmas, they “react a lot like their male peers.” The clear difference in organizations that have women in charge? They “inspire other women to go for leadership roles.”
2-13-20 Afghan sports coach says she will flee after dog shot dead
Sahba Barakzai, her family and seven-month-old husky Aseman, tried to get out into the mountains near their home in western Afghanistan every Friday. But last Friday, the hike turned to tragedy after an unidentified group of men approached the family and shot Sahba's beloved puppy dead. The attackers told her a woman could not own a dog. But Sabha fears this may have been something more - that it may have been to do with her teaching girls sport. "We still don't know about their goal but we think it is because of her career," her sister Setayesh told the BBC. "She was the first woman who has her own club and these things are taboo." Sahba was used to threats - she had been teaching karate to children in Herat, Afghanistan's third largest city, for 10 years. She had also set up a cycling club for teenage and young girls - a very public sport in a country where, less than two decades ago, women were banned from going to school, working or even leaving the house without a male chaperone. It is, Setayesh says, still taboo for girls to ride bikes in Herat and some of the community initially reacted aggressively, but her sister was determined to persist. "The main inspiration was the situation of women in Herat because she herself is an active person in community," Setayesh explained. "[Our parents] were completely worried because her life is in danger - and we saw by our own eyes last week." Indeed, last week's tragedy has left them all shaken. Sahba had set out with her father and two sisters, including Setayesh, along with Aseman. The Siberian husky, whose name means "sky", a nod to her blue eyes, had only joined the family a few months earlier, but was clearly much loved. Pictures show her playing in the snow, cuddling up to children at the club and walking with Sahba in the hills - just like they were on Friday. "We were just walking, picnicking and everything as usual," Sahba told the BBC. "We go there almost every week but that time was different."
2-12-20 Landmark Islamic funeral held for sex worker in Bangladesh
Activists in Bangladesh have welcomed the first ever Islamic funeral for a sex worker, breaking a long-standing taboo in the Muslim majority nation. Hamida Begum, who worked at one of the world's largest brothels in the village of Daulatdia, died of illness last week at the age of 65. A number of people gathered at her grave to witness the historic moment. Sex work is legal in Bangladesh, but Islamic leaders have previously refused to perform funeral prayers for workers. Instead, sex workers who die are usually buried in unmarked graves, without formal prayers, or dumped in rivers. This was the fate that originally awaited Begum until a coalition of sex workers persuaded local police to talk to spiritual leaders - who have historically considered sex work "immoral" - about giving her a formal burial. "The imam was initially reluctant to lead the prayers," local police chief Ashiqur Rahman, who oversaw the negotiations, told AFP news agency. "But we asked him whether Islam forbids anyone from taking part in the Janaza [funeral prayers] of a sex worker. He had no answer." As a result, a religious funeral was held for her last Thursday. Mr Rahman said the ceremony was attended by more than 200 people, while more than 400 went to the post-funeral meal and prayers. "It was an unprecedented scene," Mr Rahman added. "People waited until late in the night to join the prayers. The eyes of sex workers welled up with tears." Among those at Begum's graveside were her son, Mukul Seikh, and her 35-year-old daughter Laxmi, who is also a sex worker in the brothel in Daulatdia. "I never dreamed that she would get such an honourable farewell. My mother was treated like a human being," Laxmi said. "I hope from now on every woman who works here, including me, gets a Janaza just the way my mother did."
2-8-20 India's soldiers 'not ready for women in combat'
Last month, India's Supreme Court appeared to nudge the government to consider lifting the military's official ban on women in combat roles - and to give them commanding roles. "Test them on [the] same footing as men. Do not exclude them [women officers] as a class. [A] change of mindset is required," the court said. Earlier this week, the government responded. Its lawyers told the top court that women were not fit to serve in ground combat roles. For one, male soldiers are not "yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command". Then there were the "challenges of confinement, motherhood and childcare". This, according to military historian Srinath Raghavan, is an "extraordinary and regressive" claim, reminiscent of the claims of colonial rulers that Indian soldiers would never accept Indian commanders. "Military training is about fundamentally reshaping norms and attitudes that soldiers bring from their social backgrounds," he says. India's armed forces began inducting women officers in 1992. Over the decades, they have been given combat roles in the air force. Women have been inducted as fighter pilots and have flown sorties into combat zones; they will be inducted as sailors as soon as ships that can accommodate them are ready. Last year, a 24-year-old became the navy's first woman maritime reconnaissance pilot. The army is a striking exception. Women have worked here as doctors, nurses, engineers, signallers, administrators and lawyers. They have treated soldiers on battlefields, handled explosives, detected and removed mines, and laid communication lines. Women officers have also been given permanent commission - a 20-year service, depending on eligibility and rank. Last year, women were cleared to join the military police. So they have ended up doing almost everything except combat roles: women are still not allowed to serve in infantry and the armoured corps. According to 2019 figures, women comprise only 3.8% of the world's second-largest army - compared to 13% of the air force and 6% of the navy. There are some 1,500 female officers compared to more than 40,000 male officers.
2-5-20 Finland to give dads same parental leave as mums
Finland's new government has announced plans to give all parents the same parental leave, in a push to get fathers to spend more time with their children. Paid allowance will increase to a combined 14 months, which works out as 164 days per parent. Neighbouring Sweden has Europe's most generous system of parental leave with 240 days each after a baby's birth. Finland says it wants to "promote wellbeing and gender equality". Health and social affairs minister Aino-Kaisa Pekonen told reporters that "a radical reform of family benefits" had begun, with the aim of strengthening the relationship of parents from the start. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said last month that her country still had some way to go to achieve gender equality, and complained that too few fathers were spending time with their children when they were young. Anne Lise Ellingsaeter, a University of Oslo professor who led a Nordic inquiry into parental leave, told the BBC that the Nordic countries had been leading the way on giving fathers entitlement that could not be transferred to the mother. The EU is also heading that way, with a 2019 directive giving member states three years to provide each parent with at least four months' leave, including two months that can not be transferred. Portugal already has a gender-neutral system, with 120 days paid at 100% of salary and another optional 30 days at 80% of salary. Prof Ellingsaeter said giving fathers increased rights had not been a complete success in the Nordic countries. "Norway was the first country in 1993 to have non-transferable leave for fathers and then Sweden followed suit. But Denmark instituted a father quota in 1998 and abolished it later, and it hasn't been re-introduced," she said. Fathers in Denmark get two weeks after a birth and the mother and father can share a further 32 weeks between them.
1-31-20 Too late?
Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment this week, setting up a long-shot legal fight to enact a constitutional amendment outlawing discrimination “on account of sex.” Congress passed the ERA in 1972 and set a 10-year deadline for the required 38 states to ratify. Only 35 states did so in time; since then, five states have rescinded their approval. However, Nevada approved the ERA in 2017, and Illinois in 2018. Supporters of the amendment say states lack the constitutional authority to rescind their ratification. Last month, the Justice Department said the resolution “has expired,” and the National Archives, which certifies amendments, said it would follow that opinion. Virginia lawmakers refused to call the vote on the amendment, which was first proposed in 1923, merely symbolic. The 27th Amendment, which deals with congressional pay, was introduced in 1789 and finally ratified only in 1992.
1-29-20 Is visiting a strip club anti-feminist?
Videos of the British pop star Dua Lipa dancing and giving money to performers at a strip club in LA pulled the singer to the centre of a debate: can a feminist go to a strip joint? Some commentators criticised the singer, tagging her as a bad feminist. But many more rushed to her defence, noting that the male artists present were not subject to the same scrutiny. "Imagine trying to cancel a woman for going to a strip club and supporting other women," wrote one Twitter user. "I don't see y'all cancelling men for it." Women are not strangers to strip clubs in the US. A cursory online search for "bachelorette parties" returns numerous pre-wedding packages, customised for women, in which an evening at a strip club is the headline event. Nick Triantis, the owner of the Camelot strip club in Washington DC, told the BBC women had been coming to his club since it opened in 1980. "I don't even understand what the angle is there," Triantis said, adding that women at strip clubs was "nothing new". So why did the Dua Lipa video provoke a reaction? Catlyn Ladd, an author and women's studies professor in Colorado, and a former stripper herself, told the BBC the industry was double edged. "Sex work can be incredibly exploitative and it can also be empowering," she said. "Whether it's exploitation depends on the exact environment and the exact personalities of those involved." Ladd worked as a stripper for more than five years beginning in the late 90s, using the income to help support herself as she earned her master's degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She said she experienced cruelty and condescension, but she also met her husband of over 20 years while dancing. She has returned to strip clubs occasionally as a patron, since she stopped dancing, she said, often as a "safety blanket" for other friends.
1-17-20 Economy: Is income inequality overstated?
New research is poking holes in the conventional wisdom about income inequality, said The Economist. The idea that the richest 1 percent has “detached itself from everyone else” is a rallying cry for populists like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But some economists have “recrunched the numbers” and are calling out the research behind this “almost universally held” belief. They note, for example, that Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, the economists most responsible for the uproar over inequality, built their estimates by focusing on household income rather than individual income, even though “marriage rates have declined disproportionately among poorer Americans.” That means that the data is spread over more lower-income households, “even as the top incomes remain pooled.” Then there is the misreading of the effects of the Ronald Reagan–era 1986 tax reform, which “created strong incentives for firms to operate as ‘pass-through’ entities, where owners register profits as income on their tax returns,” thereby inflating some top-income shares after 1987. Accounting for flaws such as these, the income share of the top 1 percent actually “may have little changed since as long ago as 1960.” Enough, said Annie Lowrey in The Atlantic. We just finished a decade in which “the middle class shrank, longevity fell, and it became clear that a whole generation was falling behind.” And now we’re being told “the decade went so well,” thanks to free shipping and cheap stuff on Amazon? Look around you: Middle-income families are facing “a cost-of-living crisis,” thanks to “an egregious housing shortage that led to ballooning rents and long commutes, sky-high child-care prices, spiraling out-of-pocket health-care fees, and heavy educational debt loads.”
1-17-20 Women hold 50% of Jobs
Women held 50.04 percent of jobs last month, surpassing men on nonfarm payrolls for the first time since 2010, thanks to growth in health care and education. (Webmaster's comment: But are still 20-25% behind on compensation.)
1-17-20 Iranian athlete defects
Iran’s only female Olympic medalist has fled to the Netherlands, saying she will no longer be “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran.” Kimia Alizadeh, 21, took bronze in tae kwon do at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and she is now training with the Dutch team, but it’s unclear whether she has applied for asylum. “Of course she is welcome here,” said Dutch tae kwon do trainer Mimoun El Boujjoufi. “We know her qualities.” Alizadeh’s announcement comes just months after Iranian judo champ Saeid Mollaei defected and took Mongolian citizenship. He was angered at being ordered to throw a semifinal bout in last year’s World Judo Championships to avoid facing an Israeli in the final.
1-17-20 White boys are lagging behind
British educational institutions routinely offer scholarships to black Britons from deprived backgrounds, said Miranda Green, yet singling out disadvantaged white youths for special help is seen as racist. Prominent academic Sir Bryan Thwaites discovered that recently when he tried to endow a $1.3 million scholarship to send working-class white boys to two posh boarding schools. The schools turned the gift down, thinking it looked bad for their brands. Yet Thwaites, a scholarship boy himself, has identified a real need. The educational underperformance of Britain’s white working-class males is “desperate.” Fewer than 10 percent of poor white boys go to university—the lowest share of any demographic group. Boys lag behind girls at all stages of schooling, simply “tuning out of what goes on in the classroom.” This may be because boys don’t want to be “catapulted out of their own social context” into college, which many think is only for toffs and eggheads. There is a range of possible remedies: We could combat boys’ perception of university study “as passive and dull,” or expand vocational colleges, which “have been allowed to wither.” The government should refocus British education on “those who don’t go to university”—which, after all, is most of us. (Webmaster's comment: Helping the most ignorant is a lost cause.)
1-15-20 Democratic debate: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren ramp up feud
There have been seven official Democratic debates but this one had a real sense of urgency - in less than three weeks the candidates will face their first test. The primary season begins on 3 February with the Iowa caucuses, when the Democratic voters in this state will pick who they want to take on Donald Trump in November. As the six White House hopefuls took to the debate stage in Des Moines, the Republican US president they have in their sights was mocking them at a rally 400 miles east in Wisconsin. Here are some key moments from the debate - and the Trump rally. The body language between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders at the conclusion of the debate - when they spoke heatedly and did not shake hands - told its own story. The non-aggression pact between the two candidates could be over just as the voting is set to begin. The biggest news story in campaign politics over the past few days had been the growing tensions between the two most liberal candidates. Warren had alleged that Sanders told her in December 2018 that a woman couldn't win the presidency - something Sanders denied. Asked about this during the debate, Sanders denied it again - saying he has long supported the idea of a woman president. Then Warren had her turn, and in a set-piece response she clearly spent time crafting, she hit a number of political targets almost in one breath. She started by essentially implying that Sanders was lying. She then pivoted her response into a shout-out for the electoral success that she and Amy Klobuchar, the other woman candidate on the stage, have had. They've won every election they've been in, she said to thunderous applause, while the three male politicians debating have lost 10 between them. She ended by pitching herself as the unity candidate with a broad coalition.
1-15-20 Democratic debate: Warren mocks men for losing elections
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders did not look happy with each other at the end of CNN's Democratic debate in Iowa. The two senators had sparred over the question of whether a woman could beat Donald Trump and win the White House in November's election. Both agreed that a woman could become US president - but disputed whether Mr Sanders had told Ms Warren otherwise in a private conversation in 2018. The Massachusetts senator then used the opportunity to contrast the electoral record of the male and female candidates on the debate stage.
1-15-20 Vatican appoints first woman to senior role in Church
Pope Francis has made an Italian lawyer the first woman to hold a management position in the Vatican's most important office. Francesca Di Giovanni, 66, will serve as undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. She will be responsible for co-ordinating the Holy See's relations with groups including the UN. Pope Francis has been vocal in his support for women holding greater positions of authority in the Vatican. "I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as well," she told Vatican media. Ms Di Giovanni has worked for the Vatican for 27 years and holds a law degree. She has specialised in areas including migration and refugees, the status of women, intellectual property and tourism. "The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women," she said. "But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman."
1-14-20 Oscars 2020: Heller and Hanks on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Tom Hanks has been nominated for an Oscar for his role in the soon to be released A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. But like the Baftas, no women have been nominated in the best director category at this year's Oscars. Hanks and the film's director, Marielle Heller, spoke to the BBC's Arts Editor Will Gompertz before the Oscar nominations were announced and said they hoped for change in the industry.
1-12-20 Kimia Alizadeh: Iran's only female Olympic medallist defects
Iran's only female Olympic medallist, the taekwondo champion Kimia Alizadeh, has confirmed she has defected. In a series of posts on social media, Alizadeh, 21, said she had left Iran because she didn't want to be part of "hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery". She described herself as "one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran". Alizadeh's whereabouts are not known but she was reported to have been training in the Netherlands. She made history for Iran in 2016 when she won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the Rio Olympics. But in her social media posts she said authorities in the Islamic republic had used her success as a propaganda tool. Her defection comes as Iran is gripped by protests - stemming from the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner on Wednesday, in middle of a major confrontation with the US. "I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they've been playing for years," she wrote. "I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools." She added that although the government would exploit her sporting success politically, officials would humiliate her with comments such as: "It is not virtuous for a woman to stretch her legs." Alizadeh denied she'd been invited to Europe or given a tempting offer and did not confirm which country she had gone to. Iranians reacted with shock last week when news of Alizadeh's disappearance first emerged. Iranian politician Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh accused "incompetent officials" of allowing Iran's "human capital to flee". On Thursday, the semi-official Isna news agency carried a report that said: "Shock for Iran's taekwondo. Kimia Alizadeh has emigrated to the Netherlands." The agency reported that Alizadeh was hoping to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but not under the Iranian flag.
1-9-20 Record number of female film leads, US study suggests
Female characters had their biggest-ever representation in box office films last year, according to research. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film said a record 40% of 2019's highest-grossing US movies had women in a lead role - up 9%. But black and minority ethnic (BAME) women are being left behind, the annual report also suggests. Films on the list include Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Joker and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Compiled from information from Box Office Mojo, the study said that 43% of the biggest movies had a male lead, while titles with equal male/female leads or ensemble casts accounted for the remaining 17%. Film critic Dr Rebecca Harrison told the BBC the increase of representation in leading women on screen is "great" for megastar white actresses like Brie Larson, Angelina Jolie and Renee Zellweger, as well as Scarlett Johansson and Margot Robbie - who received two Bafta nominations in the same category this week. But "for women of colour" she added, "representation is still appalling". The main female characters in question proved to be white 68% of the time, compared to their black colleagues (20%). Asian women made up 7% of the roles and Latina women 5%. "The intersectional oppressions are alive and well," said Dr Harrison. The survey - which began in 2002, when big female lead roles were at a lowly 16% - arrives after a week of criticism around the unfair treatment of women and BAME people, either side of the camera. It's a Man's (Celluloid) World, which is the name of the study, suggested that in films with at least one female writer and/or director, 58% of the main characters were female. That figure dropped to 30% in films made by men. Last week the Golden Globes again did not recognise any women in their five-strong all-male pool for best director - won by Sam Mendes for his war epic, 1917. And this week no women were nominated in the same category for a seventh year in a row at the Baftas.
1-8-20 Does the US have a problem with topless women?
Women fed up with being forced to cover up their breasts and nipples are challenging American laws about nudity and sparking a debate about the country's attitude to the naked female form. In September, Effie Krokos was awarded a $50,000 (£38,178) civil settlement after she took her shirt off in public in Loveland, Colorado, and was issued a summons for doing so. The 20-year-old was charged with indecent exposure after she played Frisbee topless in her fiance's front yard. She had thought that the law in Colorado had changed and she was safe to take her shirt off when she got hot and sweaty during the game - after all her fiance had removed his top too. They were equal, right? "I thought it was fine because there had been a ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals which covers Colorado. I'd read an article about it saying that it was OK for women to go topless. "It was a warm September day and the weather was roasting. I took my shirt off without thinking too much about it." But a few hours later, a police officer turned up to tell her that there had been complaints and she was facing charges. Krokos told the BBC: "I kept asking the police officer what I was being charged with, but I was just told I was disgusting the neighbours and that there were children around, and what made it OK for me to think I could be topless? "I was taken aback because for everyone to be here today who was breastfed, you would have had a topless woman feed you. What is so disgusting about that?" Krokos said that by the time the officer arrived at her home, she was fully clothed while her fiance remained topless, and yet there had been no complaints about him. "It's not like I was standing in the middle of the road, screaming 'look at me'. I was discreetly playing Frisbee in my yard when I had my top off," she added. But it didn't matter. She had to get lawyers involved to have the charges dismissed and the case sealed so it would not come up in background checks. If the charge of indecent exposure had been upheld it would have derailed her dream of teaching. "There was a risk at one point that I would have been marked down as a sexual predator as indecent exposure is a sexual offence," Krokos said.